Top US officials hold first in-person meeting with the Taliban since the US killed al Qaeda’s leader in July

Top Biden administration officials met in-person with the Taliban on Saturday for the first time since al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed by the US in his apartment in Kabul in late July, two officials familiar with the talks said.

The administration sent the CIA’s deputy director and the top State Department official responsible for Afghanistan to the Qatari capital of Doha for the talks with the Taliban delegation which included their head of intelligence, Abdul Haq Wasiq.

After Zawahiri was killed in a strike, the US accused the Taliban of a “clear and blatant violation of the Doha agreement, “brokered by the Trump administration, which said that the Taliban would not harbor terrorists if US forces withdrew from Afghanistan, which they did in August 2021.

After a US drone fired fatal Hellfire missiles at Zawahiri, American officials accused Taliban leaders from the Haqqani network of knowing about Zawahiri’s whereabouts while the Taliban angrily condemned the operation.

Since then, the US has continued to engage with the Taliban, including negotiating the release of US citizen Mark Frerichs. But senior officials had not met face-to-face since a few days before Zawahiri was killed on July 31.

The presence of CIA Deputy Director David Cohen and the Taliban’s Wasiq at the meeting on Saturday indicates an emphasis on counterterrorism. The White House last month called cooperation with the Taliban on counterterrorism “a work in progress.”

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